The Black Cats, who are sitting six points above the Premier League relegation zone, bowed out of the FA Cup with a 2-0 reverse to Bolton on Tuesday.
But the one plus from the Stadium of Light defeat was the return to action for the last 15 minutes of Cattermole, who has been out with a knee injury since November.
O'Neill said: "Lee has been missing for seven or eight weeks and I am hoping he can stay fit for us between now and the end of the season.
"I did think about starting with him, but I was not sure how he would cope physically."
Meanwhile, O'Neill is confident striker Steven Fletcher will be available for the trip to Wigan after he missed the Bolton match through illness.
O'Neill added: "Steven came in to do a little bit of work and that was when he was feeling ill and we sent him home. I am just hoping he will recover in time for the weekend.
"Fletcher is a big miss for us, but we should be able to cope. The whole idea of trying to get a team and a squad together is that there are going to be good players missing."